President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Shira Banki’s Way, the Rabin Center and the Gush Katif Center have been inspired by President Reuven Rivlin’s ‘Hope’ project – not to persuade anyone who is right or wrong – but to know, understand and respect one another.
Jerusalem teenager Shira Banki was stabbed to death by ultra-Orthodox zealot Yishai Schissel at the 2015 Gay Pride parade in the capital. Schissel previously spent 10 years in prison for stabbing marchers in Jerusalem’s 2005 parade and was released shortly before the 2015 event.
Uri Banki, Shira’s father, spoke at the President’s Residence on Tuesday to some 100 religious and secular high school students. He told them Schissel was not some isolated mad man, but had an enormous groundswell of support. Even before his daughter’s murder, when it was known via social media only that she would participate in the march, Shira received 4,500 death threats. Even when the identity of the killer was known, messages were received to the effect that if there were 10 more like him, there would be no more gay pride parades.
In a strange coincidence, one of the people involved in the project is David Hatuel, president of One Family and a former resident of Gush Katif. Hatuel’s first wife, Tali – who was then pregnant – and four daughters were killed by terrorists in 2004. Thirty years ago, Hatuel and Banki served together in the Paratroop Brigade. They came from different backgrounds and had long discussions on issues on which they radically disagreed. “But we never hated each other,” said Banki.
Dalia Rabin spoke immediately after Banki and said to him: “Uri, when you spoke, I felt that we came from the same place. I’m living with it for a long time.”
The concept for the project evolved, Rabin said, when the Banki family approached Dani Dayan, current Israel Consul-General in New York and former chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Dayan put the Bankis in touch with the Rabin and Katif centers, who pooled efforts to create a suitable program for both religious and secular youth. “This is not about slogans,” said Rabin. “It’s about creating a better society.”
Hatuel, who is also the representative of the Katif Center, said the emphasis is not to prove who is right, but to show students how to deal with conflict by listening to other voices. National responsibility is a priority, and for this reason we responded immediately to the Banki-Rabin initiative. Regardless of our different viewpoints, we are linked.”
Rabbi Kobi Bornstein, one of the founders of the Katif Center, asked students about their experiences over the past year, what it meant to secular students to go to the Katif Center and religious students to the Rabin Center. Both sides said that they learned a lot through listening, while not giving up on their ideals and could now understand where the other person was coming from.
The secular students said that until they saw the videos of the evacuation from Gush Katif they never realized how painful it was for each person. The religious students said that they got a different perspective at the Rabin Center to what they had been taught, and one girl who came from a Gush Katif family, said that it had been very moving to see that girls from secular schools wept as they watched the evacuation video.
Rivlin based his remarks on a Jewish and democratic state on the disputes between Hillel and Shamai. “When Hillel spoke, one could know what Shamai had said, but when Shamai spoke, only his opinion was heard.” Both views were valid said Rivlin, and the realization of this is what makes the Banki Rabin Katif project so important.